It’s been a long time since Debbi and I went away on a vacation. Due to Blackjack and Newton’s conditions, we were reluctant to go away and leave them to a pet sitter for any length of time. (And, coincidentally, both of them passed away at times when we had been considering going away, so I guess that was a good call.) After Newton’s passing, we made plans to visit our families this month, and that’s what we did.
We took the JetBlue red-eye to Boston two weeks ago, arriving bleary-eyed as usual. We went down to visit Debbi’s family for part of the day, and then they drove me up to my Dad’s house. It was dreadfully hot the first day and a half, but then cooled off to just about perfect weather (with a couple of rainy days).
This is the first time I’ve actually spent vacation time with my parents since my Mom moved in to assisted living. It was very nice to not be working during the trip, since it got pretty exhausting to have to get up every morning and head over to take care of Mom’s affairs, or get her house ready for sale. Plus it got to be depressing to spend the waning hours of the day in the increasingly-empty house. Now that the house has sold, that’s no longer a concern.
Spending most of my time hanging around my Mom’s house and occasionally having dinner with Dad (or someone else) has now been changed to mostly hanging around my Dad’s house, but driving out to visit Mom every other day. I had sort of thought that we would spend afternoons sitting either in her apartment or on the complex’s back deck by the river reading (i.e., much like what we did at her house, but in a different place). Instead we mostly drove out for lunch, ran errands, did shopping, and did a few chores around her apartment. I didn’t mind doing it, but it made the trip somewhat busier than I had expected (or was used to). I’d also forgotten that driving between my parents’ homes is a bit of a trek, since the road of suburban Boston are both full of traffic and teeming with traffic lights.
I guess this will be the new normal when I go out to visit.
Balanced against that, Dad does live in a very convenient neighborhood, with a great independent bookstore, a comic book shop, and a number of very good restaurants, all within walking distance. Several of them have intriguing mixed drink menus, which I avail myself of whenever I can. And we went on a couple of shopping expeditions to comic and book stores.
Though we stayed with our respective families most of the time, Debbi and I did get together for a few days:
The first weekend I went down to visit Debbi and her family. They arranged for us to have an adventure at 5wits, where we did their espionage adventure. It’s definitely aimed at being kid- and family-friendly, but it was fun for us adults too. (It reminded me of Escape from the Mysterious Room, which a friend of mine has done.) We also watched one of the kids play a soccer game and otherwise hung around and enjoyed the nice not-quite-fall weather. Oh! And I got to meet Lucie, their 4-month-old kitten, who has their golden retrievers completely under her thumb, and is friendly and adorable to us monkeys, too.
In the middle of the week we reversed things and Debbi came up to stay at Dad’s for a couple of nights. We went to a couple of our favorite restaurants, and went out to visit Mom, where we went shopping at Frugal Fannie’s. Debbi and Mom found some stuff, while I mostly played games on my iPhone while they were shopping. I remarked that I’m much more patient with shopping expeditions that don’t interest me than I was when I was, say, 12. Unfortunately when we got back, we found that Mom had lost her apartment keys. We suspected that she dropped them when she was trying on clothes. Fortunately, Mom wanted to go back the next weekend, and we enquired at their service desk, and sure enough they had found them! So, all ended well.
Debbi’s stay at Dad’s culminated in us driving down to Cape Cod for a day. I’ve probably mentioned before that my parents have rented a cottage in Orleans, but it’s been close to 20 years since I joined them. Dad and I have driven down for day trips in the past, and I wanted to go down and show Debbi around.
We visited Orleans and Chatham, both of which are fun places to visit even in the offseason (which it was). We had lunch at Cooke’s and had some successful shopping expeditions before driving around. Then we drove up to Provincetown, which was less successful: I remember it has having many quirky stores with neat stuff to be found, but now it seems to be a collection of touristy stores, candy stores, and junk stores. Pretty disappointing. No doubt there’s still some good stuff there to find, but an hour’s walk down main street didn’t find it. (Well, with the exception of Puzzle Me This, which is an excellent casual game store, well worth a visit.)
We zipped back to Orleans to watch the sunset (which was better attended than the early afternoon beach), as it’s one of the two places on the east coast where I’ve seen the sun set over water (the other being over the Gulf of Mexico from Florida), and then went to dinner at Land Ho!, the one place we went on the trip which was wall-to-wall packed. Then I dropped Debbi off at her sister’s house and drove back to collapse into bed. It was a long day, but fun.
With all of that activity, the trip went by rather quickly. Suddenly it was time to head back.
We flew home last Sunday. Our flight was delayed an hour and a half, and we arrived an hour late. And on top of that, they lost my suitcase somehow (despite it being a direct flight). Fortunately it was just misplaced, and they delivered it the next day (6 minutes before the end of the window they gave us, amusingly enough). We took Monday off to reorient ourselves, and Tuesday it was back to work for both of us.
Since then we’ve been getting back into our routine. Debbi unfortunately has caught a cold, which I seem to have dodged (so far). The weather has been gorgeous – hard to believe it’s already fall.
I’ve had four of the last six days off. Well, two of those were the weekend, of course, but I took Wednesday and Thursday off to both catch up on some things and to have a fun day off since I haven’t taken much vacation time this year.
Debbi took Wednesday off and we decided to drive down to Santa Cruz and then up the coast. We had breakfast at Stacks in Campbell, and then drove down to Santa Cruz. We passed to small traffic jams on the way, but otherwise it wasn’t too bad.
In Santa Cruz we went to the Museum of Natural History, which is small, but hard to beat for the $4 admission. Plus it’s near a nice beach which you can walk to while your parking pass is still good. Then we went into downtown for lunch, dropped in a couple of stores to shop, and visited The Penny Ice Creamery, which a cow-orker recommended and which was very tasty!
Our drive up the coast was uneventful, other than looking around to stop at the few beaches I wanted to drop in on. I remembered doing this same drive 13 years ago when I got my car, and stopping at several beaches which were clearly visible from Highway 1, and this time we stopped at some other ones. We particularly enjoyed seeing kitesurfers at one beach:
We also stopped at the Pigeon Point Lighthouse and saw a couple of sea lions from a distance, and visited Pebble Beach (no, not the one with the famous golf course).
We should’ve brought some water bottles with us, but otherwise it was a nice drive along the coast seeing some sights we hadn’t seen before.
Debbi went back to work Thursday and I worked on stuff at home, such as mowing the lawn. I also took care of some of my Mom’s affairs – such as cancelling her cell phone contract, since she doesn’t even know where her cell phone is at this point; if she ever needs one again, a prepaid phone will probably be the way to go. I’m constantly surprised at how many details there are to take care of, yet how most of them are not too hard individually – they just add up over time. Managing my own affairs is hard enough!
I ran a couple of errands for my own, and left lunch a little too late, settling on buying stuff for PB&J sandwiches at home.
Friday I had a 1-day work week, and Debbi and I went to Cascal for dinner. Yum!
Over the weekend we worked on some home projects. It started with a trip to the vet with Blackjack, who has been breathing more audibly lately and one of his eyes has been getting gunked up. We got some drops for his eye, and some blood work done (which came back the same as his last tests). We’re always worrying that his next symptoms might be the other shoe dropping, but so far it’s all be pretty little stuff (though the vet visits get expensive). He and Newton have both been doing pretty well this summer.
We went by Crate & Barrel to buy some new drinking glasses, and ended up also buying some wine cabinets, which we’ve needed for a while. (The old Ikea bookcase currently holding our wine is not in great shape.) We also tried to go to Ikea, but couldn’t find a parking space! Or, rather, we could, but only a lo-o-ong way from the front door, so we gave up. We went back Sunday morning and bought some shelving for our dining room, to store knick-knacks and other things that don’t currently have a home. I put it together and then we unpacked two of the last boxes remaining from our move. Almost done! I think we have 3 or 4 boxes in the study yet to unpack, but at least 2 of those are old gaming materials that I can’t quite decide to get rid of.
So a pretty productive weekend all-in-all. We finished it by grilling steak & baked potatoes, and playing a round of lawn bowling.
It was back to work today. Hard to believe fall has arrived already!
Dad came for a visit last week. (And it’s getting hard to come up with entry titles that are just variations on “A Visit From Dad”.) He flew in on Thursday and left on Wednesday. By this time we’ve gone to see most of the things in the Bay Area I know about, so it was a visit mostly of re-runs and hanging out, although he did have a couple of new things he wanted to see.
This is the first time he’s seen our new house, which we’ve now been in (hard as it is for us to believe) for 11 months. Mom saw it on her visit a year ago, but that was before we’d even closed (we were doing a walk-through with the seller the day she arrived), so it almost feels like it doesn’t count, since it was completely empty. Dad had to wait a little longer, but he got the full experience, since it’s well lived-in by now.
The day he arrived we walked down to the nearby Safeway which has a Starbucks in it, as he has been in the habit of walking out in the morning on his visits to get coffee, and his previous place, the 7-11 near our old home, is rather farther from the new place. I think he walked there every morning but two during his stay.
One place he wanted to visit was the campus of University of California – Santa Cruz, because it’s on a list he saw of the 10 most beautiful college campuses in the world (I think he saw this one). Although I’ve been to Santa Cruz many times, this was my first trip to UCSC.
I gotta say, it’s a very unfriendly campus for visitors. Apparently you are supposed to buy a parking pass to park most places on campus, which isn’t a bad thing, but they don’t tell you this. I saw no signs driving in to this effect, the booth where you buy the passes is not marked at all, and none of the parking lots we drove by or through have any indication that this is so. We only figured this out because most of the cars in one lot had things hanging from their rear mirrors, and we asked some people and they confirmed this. It’s like it’s a big trap to issue tickets to the unwary. Bastards.
We didn’t buy a pass but rather just drove around to see the place. Is it stunningly beautiful? It’s not bad; the buildings set in the redwood forest are pretty. The regions in the nearby fields look a little more generic. The architecture didn’t seem especially noteworthy. (Then again, Stanford is also on the list, and its campus has never impressed me either.) The campus is very spread out and I bet students spend a lot of time on buses or bikes to get from place to place.
We also visited the arboretum, which is quite impressive, large and varied. It’s the place I’d suggest visiting if you go to the campus for the scenery.
Saturday we drove to Livermore wine country, having lunch at Garre (nice restaurant, but their wines are not our thing), and then dropped by a couple of wineries for tastings. In the evening we went to a new restaurant that I discovered through a cow-orker, Bistro Vida, which we all enjoyed.
We came home from dinner to find that the power had gone out. We lit some candles and Debbi and I walked around the neighborhood a bit; it was a failure that covered several blocks, and it didn’t come back on until after 11, by which time we’d gone to bed. Our neighbor Juan said the power goes out from time to time – I think it only went out twice in the 10 years I was in my townhouse, so hopefully it won’t go out much more often than that! Apparently it was because of a equipment problems rather than due to the heat we were having on Saturday.
Sunday morning we went to the Moss Beach Distillery for their Sunday champagne brunch, and were pretty disappointed compared to earlier visits. They weren’t playing the classical music that Dad remarked on at his last visit, and worse, they had taken both french toast and pancakes off their brunch menu! Since I don’t eat seafood or egg dishes, that left hardly anything on the menu I would eat. Fortunately they were willing to make pancakes (for Dad) and french toast (for me) as a special order, but they were pretty ordinary compared to the more elaborate forms they used to have. I don’t know what they’re thinking, how can it be brunch without at least pancakes? I guess they’re trying to go more upscale? But they’re likely to lose me as a patron if this is the way it’s going to be. Pity.
Sunday evening we drove to the east bay to have dinner with my cousins, both of whom live out here, but neither of whom I’ve seen much of. Cousin L and her husband have a very nice house, and cousin K came from the city to meet with us. We had a good few hours visiting with them, and perhaps when their parents come out to visit next we’ll have a chance to meet them, too.
Monday we had a pretty quiet day, mostly driving around the south bay. Tuesday was a little more ambitious: We dropped Blackjack off at the vet about his eye, then went for breakfast, and finally up to San Francisco. We went to SF MOMA, which sure enough is an art museum. (I’m not really into art museums.) Then off to Ghirardelli Square for ice cream sundaes, and finally to Golden Gate Park. Strybing Arboretum – formerly one of my favorite place to wander around in the park – is now charging non-residents for admission. If nothing else that will eliminate any motivation I might have for donating to them.
Along the way we also watched some episodes of classic Doctor Who that I’d bought on DVD (used, to avoid the ridiculous prices the BBC charges for them): “The Talons of Weng-Chiang”, “Pyramids of Mars” and “Logopolis”. “Talons” was better than I’d remembered, while the other two were not as good (though still enjoyable). In particular “Pyramids” seemed to suffer from the limited (though very good) cast.
Wednesday it was a morning drive to drop Dad off at the airport, followed by meeting Debbi at her workplace for coffee, and then an afternoon of chores around the house. As always, it was a nice visit with Dad – and the cats enjoyed his company, too!
2011 was a mixed bag for us, with some big highs and big lows.
The main high was buying our new house (as well as selling the townhouse, no small accomplishment in this economy). It took us about 3 months of looking, and no small amount of frustration (bidding on and not getting a house we liked, and seeing many other houses we didn’t like) before we found this one at their open house. Debbi is a believer in things that are “meant to be”, and I’m not, but this house is a strong circumstantial argument for such a thing: It’s really perfect for us in location and layout, it’s just what we wanted. And the move went smoothly, even though it took weeks after the move to get the last few items moved from the townhouse
The other high was Debbi’s sabbatical and our trip to Hawaii, where we went to Maui and the big island. This was a great trip which we’ll remember for a long time.
The low, of course, was learning that Blackjack has cancer (lymphoma). He spent 5 weeks getting radiation therapy, followed by 6 months of chemotherapy. He was a good boy through all of it, even though he hated going to the vet. He seemed to be doing pretty well, until we got back from Hawaii when we learned that he’s gone deaf, and he was very wobbly on his feet. That seems to have been the low point for him, and he’s improved since then, almost back to his old self. But we still worry.
Those were the big points of the year. We finished out 2011 with a week off from work (both our companies closed down for the holidays). We spent most of it quietly at home enjoying the house.
We’ve just about got the last room in the house, the dining room, set up. For a while it was just the room with the big tables and all the boxes we hadn’t yet unpacked. Actually it still has 2/3 of the boxes we haven’t unpacked (by which I mean “2 boxes”, the third one is upstairs in the study), but now it has a buffet tables filled with our board games, and we bought a rug for it on Saturday, so it’s looking pretty nice. The cats are enjoying the rug, since it gives them somewhere comfortable to lie where they can look into both the living room and the kitchen.
Blackjack has been doing better this week. We’ve both seen him moving around more swiftly and even starting trouble with Roulette. He’s getting more comfortable jumping, and this weekend he got a little more affection towards Debbi, which she loved since he’s her special cat. But he also likes to go into the smaller spaces in the house (the bathrooms and closets) and meow his head off. He’s always had a really pathetic meow, so when he started doing this we’d go find him to make sure he’s okay, but it seems he just likes to do it. I don’t know if he can hear himself meow, or if he has a bit of tinnitis or similar phenomenon which makes him want to meow, or if he’s just frustrated at his condition and does it to let out some frustration.
Newton, meanwhile, has a cold, and I need to get some meds for him.
Thursday we drove over to Half Moon Bay for breakfast and then went up to San Francisco for ice cream sundaes at Ghirardelli Square. We also went to Borderlands Books, but the cats were not in residence, since they’ve connected the bookstore and cafe and the cats can’t be there until they have a door between the two. Oh well!
We stayed up ’til Midnight on New Year’s, mostly watching the NCIS marathon on the USA network, including many episodes from last season I hadn’t seen. We got visits from two sets of neighbors from our dinner party wishing us a good one and saying how they were happy we’d moved to the neighborhood. We’re glad to be here, it’s nice to have friendly faces around to chat with when we step out the door.
I have a bonus day off today (Debbi’s back at work), and I plan to just take care of a few things around the house and figure out what to make for dinner. And then it’s back to work tomorrow, trying to put back together all the code I tore apart and rewrote during December. (Ahh, nice big code-rewriting projects, always fun and satisfying. But this one has been larger than any of us had anticipated.)
While I can’t say I’m looking forward to figuring out my income taxes this year after everything that went on last year (but hey, that’s why I have a CPA), I’m hoping that 2012 will be less momentous than 2011 was. On balance things are good right now, but I hope we can go a few more years without that sort of disruption again!
Well okay, another trip to Hawaii would be acceptable.
…by which I mean it’s actually the second day of my vacation. The company’s shut down for Christmas week, so I’ll be bumming around through January 2. Happily, Debbi has the week off too, to assist me in my slothfulness.
We’ve done all the grocery trips to have food for today and tomorrow. And last night we went to Sundance the Steakhouse for dinner. (We were a little bummed that they don’t give discounts for Passport cardholders anymore, but not nearly as bummed as the fact that we didn’t get seated until half an hour after our reservation time. At least the food and drinks were good as always.)
I also made a run to the comics shop yesterday to pick up some stuff, as Ryan was having a big sale this past week. (I picked up a few collections on Wednesday, too.) It occurs to me that I should have seen whether he had any old issues of Suicide Squad in stock, as I really enjoyed reading the From the Ashes collection and have a yen to read the original series (which I guess will never be completed since DC cancelled the second collection, much like they seem to have abandoned the Sandman Mystery Theatre collection series).
The NFL has shifted most of their games from tomorrow to today, so we’re sitting watching the Forty-Niners game, and I’ll probably bake cookies a little later on.
We don’t have much in the way of plans this week, though we’re thinking about one or two fun things we could go do while we’re lounging our week away. But mostly I expect we’ll just relax and keep the cats company.
Here’s a picture of Banyan Tree Park in the town of Lahaina on Maui. The whole park is canopied by a single Banyan tree which has spread out over the years. A nice place to hang out, especially after getting shave ice at Local Boys West. Just watch out for the bird poop.
Our hike to the Nakalele blowhole was one of the high points of our trip to Maui. We took the long route through an exotic rock formation to get the the blowhole.
A lot of people parked where we did, but most of them just walked down to the edge of the cliffs to take pictures of the ocean. Hardly anyone hiked to the blowhole from this spot. We did see one couple walking back from it, though, who said it was well worth the walk.
I think we took a wrong turn on the way there, as our guidebook said to turn right along a gully, and we were skeptical that it would go anywhere and wanted to stay near the coast. In hindsight I think the gully is just another bit of scenery and is where we wanted to go, whereas staying right by the coast takes you up past a weather station where the walk is steep and a bit treacherous. Still, we did get to see (from a distance) some neat-looking pools down at the ocean:
We made it past the weather station, but you still have to clamber down a rocky hill to get down to the blowhole. Once you get there, you’re in what our guidebook called the “acid war zone”, where the ocean has gradually worn away the rocks into neat-looking formations, as if it had been carved by two armies fighting a war with acid. This was well worth the trip, as the views were gorgeous:
From the war zone you can see a small blowhole, but the main attraction is farther along. It’s pretty explosive, seeing the ocean blast water through this (relatively) small hole in the bottom of the shoreline. We were standing right where the sea breeze blows the mist, so we moved to the side to get a better view. It’s cool:
The hike back was a little easier since we took the dirt trail back from the hill rather than going past the weather station, but it’s still a fairly tricky hike. However, it’s well worth it to see some of the more unusual sights on Maui.
Oh, and Debbi asked me to take this picture of a heart-shaped hole the ocean had carved into the rock:
There were too many sights on the road to Hana on Maui to have any hope of covering them all here – we took a lot of photos.
The road is very twisty, with dozens of one-lane bridges slowing down traffic on this two-land highway. Debbi drove the way out, but we stopped a lot to see waterfalls, such as these:
But the views of the ocean and the coast were even more inspiring than the waterfalls and greenery, worth the detour down some of the side roads to get the better views. For instance:
O’heo Gulch is the E-ticket sight on the drive. It’s pretty impressive, although the drive to get there is long. It’s a series of waterfalls with pools you can swim in (though we didn’t bring our suits). Here’s what it looks like from the bottom:
And from the path along the cliffs above:
We didn’t stop to take any pictures on the route back, because it was bumpy and we were tired from the long day and wanted to clear the worst stretch of road before it got dark. If they ever pave it smooth, I could see stopping to view more sights along the way, as I like the wind-swept sides of the Hawaiian islands like there.
So I’ll leave you with a picture of the two of us that some other tourists were nice enough to take:
The walk to Dragon’s Teeth at Makalua-Puna Point on Maui is one of the easier walks we did on our vacation. Once you figure out where to park and exactly where to walk, it’s just an amble down a hill at a golf course to the rocky point.
The pressures at this coastal site caused lava to push upwards, creating the “teeth”:
The water has eroded some of the rocks, creating some interesting patterns:
And the view is gorgeous:
There was also this odd circular maze on the ground nearby. Neat, but I haven’t been able to find out anything about it:
Well worth a visit if you’re on Maui and want an easy walk to see some cool stuff.
First, a couple of photos from the balcony of our room at the Westin hotel on our recent vacation to Maui, Hawaii.
You can see three of the five swimming pools in this one. Gosh, I love palm trees:
And this one gives you an idea of how close the ocean is to the hotel. The path just in front of the beach runs for a couple of miles along Ka’anapali:
Here’s our hotel room itself. Pretty spacious, really:
Our first day on Maui we got drinks at the poolside restaurant and hung out for a while. Not a bad place to spend an hour or two before starting one’s vacation: